This or that: Vegetarian or pescatarian diet?

While there are many similarities among all these — they all emphasise whole grains, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds — there are some subtle differences

Updated - May 19, 2023 01:25 pm IST

Published - May 19, 2023 12:52 pm IST

Mumbai-based health nutritionist Khushboo Jain Tibrewala.

Mumbai-based health nutritionist Khushboo Jain Tibrewala.

Last month, the American Heart Association released a scientific statement listing the four best diets, which include the Dash (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), the pescatarian, the Mediterranean, and vegetarian. While there are many similarities among all these — they all emphasise whole grains, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds — there are some subtle differences. Here, we look at the two most applicable to Indians — the pescatarian and vegetarian.

The vegetarian diet

“Today, for almost all health goals, a vegetarian diet seems to be having a positive impact,” believes Khushboo Jain Tibrewala, a Mumbai-­based nutritionist. She says most plant­based foods are extremely nutrient-dense, adding that “In addition to fibre, every vegetable gives minerals, vitamins, and micronutrients that together create a healthy body.” One challenge with the vegetarian diet is protein (the target for most people is 0.8­1 gram of protein per kilogram of ideal body weight). “In order to meet the protein requirement, just try to get about 20-­25 grams (i.e. 1 cup of dal, curd or Greek yoghurt or a palm­sized piece of tofu) at every meal and focus on diversity.” Soak dals and beans for 12-­18 hours before cooking.

The pescatarian diet

Imagine a vegetarian diet with the occasional serving of fish and seafood. This is nutritionally the most wholesome, believes Tibrewala. “It gives you all the benefits of a vegetarian diet and the added benefit of good-fat seafood,” she says. Also, since Indian diets are most deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fish like mackerel or wild sardines are good options. She advises 200 grams twice or thrice a week to combat the danger of mercury as well as persistent organic pollutants (POPs, such as DDT), both toxic to humans in high quantities. Including foods that help the body reduce heavy metals helps: coriander leaves, celery juice, red-purple fruits and vegetables like beetroot and jamun.

The verdict

If you like fish and are not restricted by cultural or religious practices, add a few servings to your diet. If you can’t, plan your vegetarian meals to include protein. In either diet, limit intake of junk and ultra processed food.

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